Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ellie's Pre-Birthday Birthday Celebrations

So Ellie's birthday was celebrated in two chunks. We knew we were going to be out of town, so we had her party several weeks early. She again wanted a pool party, same as last year. We invited friends over, made some snacks and were all set! Easiest party ever!  Turned out it was a terrible weekend for it, between people being out of town and other things going on most of her friends couldn't come, but we're so glad for the few that did! We had a lot of fun :) 

We had a little celebration with family the same weekend. She wanted a strawberry cake with pink frosting and flowers on top. I forgot to go get the flowers on Saturday, so we improvised and made strawberry roses

Then, in Utah on her actual birthday we had quite the day! Since it was the 4th of July, I'll go ahead and do a separate post because I have a ton of pictures!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Nauvoo/Chicago Trip

My sister-in-law Emily had a roommate getting married in Nauvoo, and she wanted to go to the wedding, but it was too long of a drive for her to do herself so she asked me if I would go with her. Of course I said yes! I've always wanted to go to Nauvoo and this seemed like a perfect chance. It was easy enough to arrange, a friend of mine watched my kids while I was gone (thanks Emily!)  and Ben just picked them each day after work. We left early in the morning (for an 11 hour drive) so we had enough time to make some fun stops.

First stop: Nashville

We needed a good leg stretch, and we wanted to get a good view of the city so we went to a park along the river and walked over one of the pedestrian bridges. The weather was fantastic and it felt so good to stretch! Nashville is a gorgeous city, it was a great little walk. Took us quite a while to find parking.....but it was worth it.

We also needed some lunch. I did my research in advance and concluded that biscuit love was the place for us! It didn't disappoint, we had a delicious savory chicken biscuit. It was slightly spicy and smothered in gravy...yum! We also got a sweet biscuit, and chose a delicious hot peanut-buttery chocolatey, pretzel covered creation.

 A cool mural right outside the lunch place

  On the way driving over to lunch we saw this really cool building up on the hill with Greek architecture (the capital building).  I vaguely remembered hearing something about the parthenon in Nashville so we googled it. Apparently, next to the capital building they built an exact replica of the Parthenon, so we stopped to see the two. It was nothing earth shattering, but the buildings were pretty and it made for another nice walk :)

Magnolias have always been one of my very favorite flowers, and the first time I saw one in the South I was blown away by how big they were compared to the ones that grow in UT. I've seen a billion of them now, but they never cease to amaze me. And they smell like heaven!

Three hours later, we were back on the road. We had planned to stop in St. Louis and spend some time, but we were just not in the mood by the time we got there so a quick drive around the city cut it.

Her roommate lived in Iowa(about an hour from Nauvoo), so that's where we were heading. I have to say, Iowa lived up to every cliche expectation I had for it. It's all corn, silos and barns. I even got stuck behind a tractor on the highway! Anyway, the one thing I didn't expect was how gorgeous those wide-open country skies are. My goodness. We were driving thorough endless flat corn country as evening came, and the changing skies around sunset were truly incredible to watch.

(Dad, I took this one for you!!)

Anyway, there was this fantastic road trip moment as we were almost there. We were about 5 minutes away so we decided we needed to pick a great road trip song to end our trip. We picked "Don't Stop Believing" and we blasted it in the car and started singing at the top of our lungs and there were about a BAZILLION fireflies sparkling outside (Seriously, I've never seen so many, it was CRAZY!) and it was just one of those cool, magical, feel-good moments that I'll never forget. Great way to end a LOOONG day in the car. We went through 7 states in one day! Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Illinois and Iowa. Whew!

The next day we helped with some wedding stuff, but there wasn't a ton to do so I slipped away and drove down to Carthage, because I knew that was the only chance I'd have to see it.

What a place, what a spirit. It's amazingly calm and beautiful there on the property and touring the jail is truly humbling. There was virtually no one there and I was the only one on my tour.  Before the tour, they teach you a little bit about the history, and then they put on an Elder Holland snippet of him talking about Joseph and Carthage. My goodness, that got me. I'm so glad I had an opportunity to visit.

Back at the house I helped with a few wedding preparations. Amy (the bride) had decided she wanted a sign to be displayed at the reception, so Emily volunteered me to make it.

Also, they were having trouble figuring out how they wanted to do the flowers, and the person that was in charge had to leave so they were totally lost. I'm not sure how it happened, but since I had some floral experience I ended up in charge, haha. Somehow I only have one picture. These are the little bunches I made to go in wreaths that circled a lantern for the center-piece. I stayed up till like 2 finishing all the flowers, so that was fun. 

Next day was wedding day, and since I was just kind of this random person at the wedding (the driving buddy of a roommate) I just decided to walk around the city during the ceremony rather than butt in. It didn't leave me long, but it did give me a few hours to walk around Nauvoo. I spent a good bit of time just walking. Around the temple grounds and down to the river just enjoying the beautiful, peaceful feeling in the city. In the historic portion of the city, I stepped in the brick making shop and was planning on going another place or two when they called and said they were out of the ceremony. I had the car with the flowers, so I drove back up to the temple. After Emily was done with pictures, we drove down the the historic area again and went to the Bakery, and then we went back to the non-historic part to get lunch and yummy custard. Emily got these ginger snap cookies at the lunch place that were HEAVENLY! 

(there were about a billion peonies that the Bride's mom had cut and saved for the wedding that were left over afterwards, so we took a cup of them with us :) 

Then home it was to get ready for the backyard reception. After the reception and after everything was cleaned up, Emily and I were just hanging around the yard. They have this huge beautiful farm-style backyard and we just played like kids. Barefoot races, catching fireflies, and we made friends with the horse just over the fence. Then we dipped our feet in the pool and just layed there looking at the stars and talking until it got too cold and we went in. 

We left early the next morning and took a side trip to Chicago. We hadn't planned on going there originally, but somewhere along the way we realized it was only 3 hours out of the way so we went for it!  Ben was just in Chicago the week before for a business trip, and went last year for a business trip also, and I've been wanted to go because of his descriptions of it.  I'm so glad we went, it was awesome! We got there at noonish and first went to the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Ummmm.....this plant lover was in heaven! Seriously!!! I was dying!!!! We also took some mission pictures for Em while we were there, and they turned out gorgeous! 

 The delphinium were one of my favorite, look at that color!

And I loved these little mosaic plants, they were just so cool!

I have a million pictures of plants but I'll spare you :) 

A few of Emily (okay, QUITE a few, but I just love how they turned out!) 

After the Botanic Gardens we headed downtown. Driving from the gardens into downtown was fun because we got to see a lot of different areas of the city and a lot of cool architecture. We also drove along Lake Michigan, my first great-lake sighting :) 
 A quick stop at Giordano's for some deep dish pizza to go, and we were off to Millennial/Grant Park to walk around, eat, and enjoy a free outdoor concert. The weather was seriously perfect for a night outside. We saw the bean, walked over the bridge that connects the two parks, wandered around and then settled in for pizza at the outdoor amphitheater. 

(Had to take a picture of BRADY street!)

On the way home, we drove through Indianapolis (didn't stop, but it was cool just because I like seeing new places) and Louisville. Churchill Downs was about 3 minutes out of the way off the freeway when we were driving through Louisville so we went to see it just to see the iconic double spires.  Back through Nashville and Chattanooga and then home! 

Great trip!